Marriage promotion has failed to stem poverty among single moms

The federal government has made marriage promotion among single mothers a key part of its continuing effort to fight poverty. But that approach has missed the mark because marriage doesn’t provide the same benefits to poor, single mothers as it does for others, according to Kristi Williams, associate professor of sociology at The Ohio State University.

“If the goal of marriage promotion efforts was truly to lower poverty rates and improve the well-being of unmarried parents and their children, then it is time to take a different approach,” Williams said. That could include preventing unwanted births and giving more child care support for single mothers, she said…

It’s easy to see why marriage promotion is appealing, Williams said: About 46 percent of children in single-mother households were living in poverty in 2013, compared to 11 percent of children living with two married parents.

Marriage promotion became an official U.S. policy in 1996 when Congress passed welfare reform legislation that allowed states to spend welfare funds on a range of efforts to get single mothers to marry. It has continued, with some modifications, to this day.

“But the flaw in this approach is the assumption that all marriages are equally beneficial,” Williams said…

“Single mothers who marry and later divorce are worse off economically than single mothers who never marry,” she said…

Other countries similar to the United States are much more successful in keeping single mothers out of poverty. One recent study suggests that the poverty rate of U.S. single-parent households is nearly twice the average of 16 comparable countries…

One thought on “Marriage promotion has failed to stem poverty among single moms

  1. Let’s just say you have to hold a steady job in order to be a single mom. It hasn’t always been easy but luckily I have a great support system. I wasn’t getting child support for years but I am finally. It usually isn’t much but it’s definitely better than nothing.

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